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Honors D.C. fly-in gives students first-hand experience in policymaking

Honors D.C. fly-in gives students first-hand experience in policymaking

June 3, 2019 at 9:54am

Last week, FIU in Washington, D.C., hosted 12 Honors College Dean’s Scholars for a three-day visit to learn about public policy.

The students were selected by Dean Juan Carlos Espinosa and his colleagues in the Honors College based on their academic performance and leadership. Their interests in mental health, environment, immigration and justice inspired them to explore careers in public policy at the capital.

“Our Honors D.C. Fly-In really gave me an opportunity to reflect on the importance of interdisciplinary aspects as they are undoubtedly found in every professional career,” said Abraham Alonso, a sophomore studying biochemistry and interested in public health care. “Our trip helped me understand this real-life lesson in a real-life setting that would have been otherwise impossible to teach in a traditional classroom setting.”

The Honors D.C. Fly-In is an example of a collaboration between FIU’s colleges and schools and FIU in DC’s Talent Lab to curate academic and career experiences in the nation’s capital. The Student Government Association and Campus Life also supported the students’ experience through funding and logistics.

This past academic year, the Talent Lab and collaborators supported nearly 500 students through internships and 16 experiential fly-ins. Another recent example of a fly-in was the first Global Fly-In in April, when eight students explored international careers in various federal agencies and nonprofits.

During the Honors D.C. Fly-In, students explored the role of congressional offices, federal agencies, think tanks and corporate federal relations teams in how legislation is influenced and interpreted.

Site visits included discussions with congressional and committee staff at the House of Representatives; outreach and federal policy teams at Facebook; policy and congressional staff at the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services; and think tank panelists at the Florida House in D.C.

“I have been impacted in such a way throughout this trip that I am thinking about diving deeper into public policy now more than ever,“ said Oriana Zakharov, a sophomore majoring in psychology and interested in mental health policy.

Students were also divided among small groups to visit federal departments and nonprofits that focused on their interests in civil rights, public health and social justice — including The Leadership Conference. 

“In addition to visits to government agencies and nonprofits, our students got a chance to meet Honors College alumni working in Washington, including 2018 grad Claudia Pagon who works in the office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” added Espinosa.

And for a perspective on foreign governments engaged with U.S. policy, the newly
appointed Consul General of Mexico in Miami, Jonathan Chait Auerbach, visited the students at FIU in D.C.  Auerbach explained how foreign governments educate American policymakers in Washington, D.C., and reviewed key challenges facing both countries such as immigration.

The trip’s capstone experience was a half-day leadership seminar at the Fred W.  Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Va. Students learned about how Washington combined leadership, management and strategy to effectively advance the country’s goal and learn from his mistakes.

The Mount Vernon experience was made possible by the support of the chair of FIU’s Board of Trustees, Claudia Puig, who serves as a vice regent for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the fiduciary board for Mount Vernon and the Library.

The 12 students are now part of FIU in DC’s Talent Lab Prep Network, which will help them continue to pursue career options and internships at the capital.